Thursday, July 31, 2008

Picture This: PR Empowered by Video

I began writing for newspapers in 1984, and still do so on rare occasions. It's rewarding, it's demanding, and it's in my blood.

But it's far from the only channel of communication that I advise my clients to navigate. Increasingly, I am convinced that the written word remains a persuasive force but that its power multiplies when accompanied by a visual component.

Often, that means creating a website so that your audience has 24/7 access to your message. And the message should include photographs and/or video clips.

Some current examples:

And my YouTube channel, at, has 70 video clips. The vast majority have been used, or are currently in use, to promote one client or another.

Here is an especially compelling one, showing a Scheck & Siress client who has benefitted from a device known as the WalkAide:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fighting City Hall: An Update

As promised, a media outreach status regarding the family simply trying to build their garage in Riverside, Illinois.

The Landmark, a weekly newspaper in Riverside, published this letter to the editor along with a photograph of the Udelson family: Fighting Riverside's $100,000 mistake -and how it affects you.

A reporter from Suburban Life, a twice-weekly publication, went to the Udelson home this afternoon to interview Jerry and Michelle Udelson. And the Chicago Tribune has also expressed interest.

Meantime, plenty of traffic is happening at the website I created for this public-awareness campaign. (Aug. 1, 9 a.m. note: the online poll shows a 125-4 vote, in favor of the Udelsons.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quantity of Information Begets Quality PR

In the PR business, you can never gather too much information. Now, choosing what to disseminate--and when, and to whom--those are areas where you want to be more selective.

But out of quantity flows quality.

Case in point: on Monday, I spent three hours with Scott McAdam, president of McAdam Landscaping. I took still photos and shot video at about 20 locations, throughout River Forest and Oak Park, where his company has done its stellar work. It's all part of a longer-term plan to develop more--and more compelling--ways to communicate his company's expertise and experience.

Along the way, we discussed a wide range of topics and Scott mentioned that the cost of doing business has grown markedly this year, and a significant reason for that has been the rising cost of fuel. Besides mentioning a fuel additive that he may want to look into (which has provided my vehicles with 10 to 15 percent better efficiency over the years), I tucked the information away for potential media outreach.

Then, this afternoon, I heard from Geoff Williams, a top business writer based in Cincinnati, "asking if you represent any companies (like the landscaping client you have) that involve a lot of transportation – like, a company that has cars, buses or trucks or makes deliveries. For a gas article."

The article is for a publication with a nationwide subscription of 175,000.

Of course, the dots don't always connect so neatly--or nearly so quickly. But gather as many dots--or pieces of information about your client, its industry, or even facts that may not seem very relevant at the moment--and you are in a stronger position to do more for your client.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ease Media's Load: Tip, Don't Tease

The roots of this post's topic appeared in last Monday's Inside Edge PR blog post, "Fighting City Hall."

Having covered local government for the better part of 15 years, I can say from experience that he who furnishes the municipal reporter with the most background information--and a clear road map on how they can navigate the reporting process---is exponentially more likely to spark coverage.

If you were an underpaid/overworked reporter, which of these pitches would move you to action?

Pitch A:


Wondering if you would you be interested in looking into a story suggestion involving the village of Riverside and its (mis)handling of a garage construction approval process for a new family in town?

Pitch B:


I'm passing along a story suggestion involving the village of Riverside and its (mis)handling of a garage construction approval process for a new family in town, the Udelsons.

As a pediatric dentist, Jerry Udelson knows very well how to communicate with children in a potentially stressful situation. But he and his wife, Michelle, are at their wit’s end with Riverside officials.

They have spent $70,000 to build a garage, based on plans approved multiple times by the village, only to have Riverside officials later say that, oops, they shouldn't have approved those plans, after all.

Now they want the Udelsons to tear it down and start over—a scenario that would cost another $100,000.

Meanwhile, the debacle is costing all Riverside residents: the village has already spent thousands of dollars in legal, architectural and plan review consultants to fight the Udelsons.

A website with much more detail, including video clips of Jerry and Michelle, is at Please let me know if you are interested in learning more; I can put you in touch with Jerry, Michelle, their attorney and neighbors as well.

Now, the choice should be obvious.

Pitch "A" is a tease, masquerading poorly as a tip. Reporters don't like being teased. If you have more information that can help them gauge whether to pursue a story idea, then provide it.

Pitch "B" is a bonafide tip that provides a clear blueprint of the story, at least from your client's perspective. It requires some more up-front work, and some more creative thought, but the payoff is you are much more likely to get the media coverage you seek.

Do some heavy lifting to ease reporters' load. They'll appreciate it, and so will your clients.

(By the way, Pitch "B" just went out to various members of the local Chicago media. I'll keep you updated on what kind of media coverage occurs in the days and weeks to come.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I Always Bring A Camera To Chicago

I took my children to downtown Chicago today. On the "el," I applied too much sunscreen around Zach's eyes, resulting in no small amount of stress as he expressed displeasure in a way that only he can.

We then walked at least two miles as we meandered from spot to spot, never quite having The Experience that I'd hoped for. Then, on our way back to the "el," we came upon this scene--a man doing what I call a Funky Freeze routine.

It was time to get out the digital camera/video:

Friday, July 25, 2008

1998: A Storied, Um, Steroid Summer

Getting a bit nostaglic lately, as I think back to a decade ago.

Ten years ago marked America's Summer of Falling Back in Love with Major League Baseball.

That's the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated fans--and recaptured many who had grown disillusioned by the 1994 strike that deep-sixed the season in mid-August.

At the time, I was a reporter for The Courier News in Elgin, Ill., with a side column called "By the Numbers." The column was all the excuse I needed to research 80 years of baseball's most fearsome sluggers' statistics.

Along the way, I invented a stat, which I dubbed the Home Run Power Ratio. It's a sort of inflation index for homers so you can compare players from various generations by objectively gauging how they fared against their peers.

I wrote various pieces on the HRPR, including one for a grand baseball publication called The Elysian Fields Quarterly.

My true grand-slam moment, though, came at the end of the 1999 season, when Sports Illustrated, the magazine I'd dreamt of writing for since I began subscribing as a 10-year-old in 1978, published a brief piece on the HRPR.

In recent years, the romance with America's Pastime has been tarnished, a sense of betrayal having set in after we discovered that everyone but the batboy, seemingly, was using steroids to swing for the fences.

But it sure was fun when we were in the midst of it, huh?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Media Alert: It's Never Too Late

My phone rang about 2:15 p.m. last Thursday. It was Christine O'Brien, the administrative assistant at Five Seasons Sports Club in Northbrook.

Christine apologized for the late notice, but wanted to let me know that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was celebrating his birthday at the club the next evening. Was there any chance we could get anyone from the media to cover it?

Absolutely, I said, we can give it our best shot.

A few minutes after gathering some details from Christine, I made five media contacts: the Northbrook Star, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and Neighborhood Circle (a Sun-Times News Group website).

At 2:48 p.m., Northbrook Star managing editor Cathy Backer e-mailed a reply, stating that the paper would "round up a photographer" and inquiring as to Mr. White's age (he's 74). The story appeared today, including a home page photo-and-text spread on the Star's home page online.

None of the other media outlets pursued the story suggestion. Even if none had at all, it would have been worth the effort.

The lesson here, and which I emphasize to clients all the time, is it's never too late to try to get media coverage. Of course, more lead time is helpful--sometimes crucial--and you don't want to always be scrambling at the last moment. But the unfurling of events doesn't always come in an orderly, tidy way, with a ribbon tied on top. It's imperative that you do the best you can with the hand you're dealt.

And frequently, I have found, providing short notice is not much of a disadvantage at all because the very nature of news is that editors, producers and other decision-makers always have to stay on their toes and can't commit resources, for certain, until the time of a given event arrives.

At that point, if no fires, proverbial or literal, have flared up to attract their attention, then you stand a good shot at getting some kind of media treatment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All A-Twitter Over Social Media

Some things are easier to illustrate by doing than by trying to offer an explanation.

Take social media, for instance. Just what is it? Sometimes, it feels like trying to explain where the wind comes from, and where in the world it's headed. We know it's all around us, and that it has an impact, but beyond that, things can get sketchy.

Today, along with a pair of publicists from Newman Communications, I sought to describe to Joe Takash why it made sense to engage in social media to help promote his forthcoming book, Results Through Relationships: Building Trust, Performance, and Profit Through People.

Among other resources, we discussed Twitter, which specializes in enabling short updates throughout our days. It's just one of many emerging tools in our increasingly connected world. I've been using it sporadically the past few months, as I expand beyond Linked In, Facebook and my YouTube channel.

Anyway, shortly after getting off the conference call with Joe and the dynamic Newman duo, I'd LinkedIn with all three of them. Then I posted the following on Twitter:

Had a great call w/ smart folks at Newman Communications-the PR force for Joe Takash's forthcoming book, Results Through Relationships.

A few minutes later, a fellow publicist in New York, Melissa Dobson, responded thusly:

The book sounds right up my alley, thanks for sharing!

Melissa first contacted me after seeing this column of mine on Bulldog Reporter. We've since struck up a friendship, exchanging helpful pointers and offering resources to one another.

In addition, Melissa is "following" me on Twitter, and I'm "following" her. My overall following consists of only a few others, at least at this early stage. But the idea is to have it grow so that all of my posts gain an increasing audience. Seth Godin's, for example, approaches 6,000 on Twitter alone.

Meantime, what will come of this brief exchange today? Will Melissa prove to be a marketing force, spreading the word day and night about Results Through Relationships and its wonderfully talented author up to and beyond its mid-September release?

I think that's asking a bit much of Melissa. But the lesson that was underscored for me today is that with so many channels for spreading messages, the little things--a new contact here, a shared resource there--hold the promise of a large cumulative effect in the long run.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

XS Energy Drink: Worst `Green' PR Stunt Ever?

Chris Knape, a Grand Rapids Press reporter, on Monday posted some critical remarks about the Chicago Sun-Times' tongue-in-cheek story about XS Energy Drink last week.

"The idea is so incredibly stupid," Knape blogged, "it gets my vote for worst "green" PR stunt ever."

Now, I don't know how many green PR stunts he's encountered---so I don't know whether to resent, or resemble, his commentary.

But this much I do know: gone are the days when a company would have to endure a protracted lag time between Knape's "BS From XS" remarks before issuing a response.

Nowadays, we're engaged in a dialogue with no time restraints. And as long as Knape keeps spelling the drink's name correctly, I guess we can't be entirely upset.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fighting City Hall

Today I began working for a new client who is battling the Chicago-area municipality where he moved his family two years ago. After tearing down the existing house, then building a new one, he began work on a new garage.

At first, the structure gained multiple approvals along the way. But then the village, in effect, said, "Oops, your garage is too big. You need to tear it down and start over."

Taking that route would cost about $100,000, between gutting what's been done and re-building. Obviously, my client doesn't want to take that route, nor should he be forced to do so.

I've reported numerous times on variations on this "Fighting City Hall" theme, and that experience is integral to my strategy in helping the client. My goal is to shine a light on the situation, through the media and other means, and help my client prevail in being able to simply finish building his garage.

I am mindful, too, that the definition of "winning" in this situation includes behaving in a respectful, classy manner. After all, my client and his family will be residing in this village for years to come and have already proven to be good neighbors (more on that later).

So aggressive tactfulness, or maybe it'll be tactful aggressiveness, will mark my PR efforts. Stay tuned on updates and more specifics along the way---the next four weeks should prove most interesting!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

PR: Slugging It Out...Even When It's "Over"

With apologies to Yogi Berra, when it comes to generating publicity, "it ain't over til it's over" is barely touching the surface of your PR potential.

It's naive to think of a PR opportunity being an "event" with a fixed window of time. Yes, an event may be a key component of your publicity plan, but it's not the end-all, be-all.

Let's take the "press conference" as an example. What if nobody from the press shows up? Does that mean you are out of luck? Not by a long shot--as you long as you bottle up what you have to say and then pursue one or more other avenues to communicate it to your audience, either directly such as via your website or indirectly, through the media.

For example, this past weekend, Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge, Ill. hosted an event, dubbed "Slug It Out For Special Olympics."

Some Special Olympics reps were on hand, and the club's boxing instructor and event organizer, Mike Nishimura, provided tips as a number of contestants threw as many punches as they could muster, in a 60-second span, into his mitts. There were no reporters there, but as you can see below, that doesn't mean the event went unchronicled.

My next step is to inform the local media about the event's results, in as compelling a multimedia fashion as possible, and as quickly as possible, while the event is still fairly fresh.

Friday, July 18, 2008

XS Energy Drink Featured in Chicago Sun-Times

A few weeks ago, on this blog, I mentioned one of my clients, XS Energy Drink, and described it as "easily the most successful energy drink you've quite likely never heard of."

Of course, my role as publicist is to make sure as many people hear about it as possible. And today marked a significant step in that direction, as XS was the subject of a fun, tongue-in-cheek story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Below is a related press conference from last Friday at the Green Party's national convention in Chicago, held in a way that might best be described as "unorthodox."

My idea to propose a U.S. Department of XS Energy, and to tie it into a national political party convention, came in May, after I read a book by publicity stunt veteran Peter Shankman.

In Can We Do That? Outrageous PR Stunts That Work--And Why Your Company Needs Them, Shankman details how he used the 2004 Democratic Party National Convention to generate gobs of media coverage for one of his clients.

When I noticed that the Green Party convention was in Chicago--on the same weekend that XS Energy Drink co-founder David Vanderveen would be in town for another promotional event--it had all the elements for a perfect Publicity Stunt Storm.

Our next step is to spread word of the Sun-Times' coverage to other media, and expand awareness of XS Energy Drink. By the way, XS racked up $150 million in sales last year, placing it #6 in overall energy drink sales, including tops in online sales--and that's no bull!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lazy or Resourceful? It's A Fine Line Online

I've subscribed to the Medill School of Journalism alumni list-serv for more years than I can recall--it's been at least six, I think. It's been a terrific resource as we grads seek sources for stories, hunt for full-time and freelance work opportunities, debate various journalism/marketing/PR issues and on and on...

For any given alum, me included, most of the posts are of minimal interest: an apartment sublet listing in Brooklyn, a marketing position in North Carolina, and, hey, who knows how to get a hold of Michael Moore?

On the other hand, there are some posts that are immensely relevant--like the one that my friend, freelance writer Ed Finkel, just posted seeking to interview alumni of the "Cherub" program at Northwestern University's National High School Institute.

(I replied to Ed in about 7 seconds flat, a cyberspace version of the Arnold Horshack character on the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. "Oooh, oooh, me, me!" I'm a 1985 Cherub, and am forever grateful for the experience and friendships it provided me.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, a recurring theme on the list-serv is the debate over just what is an appropriate use of the list-serv.

This week, the issue that's flared up revolves around whether using the online community for relatively simple information---such as the name of the Chicago Tribune's metro editor---constitutes laziness or resourcefulness. Along with that debate is this tangent: By responding to such simple queries, are we being helpful or merely enabling sloppy research habits?

One comment I found particularly insightful came from Holly Leber. An excerpt:

"I imagine the methods of teaching at Medill are somewhat different today than they were 25 years ago. Journalism certainly is different. We often have to get stories up on the internet within 20 minutes of news breaking; things are constantly moving. It's rare that we have time to do everything the hard way if there is a faster way to get it done.

Furthermore, our society has become far more litigious and therefore people are more reluctant to talk to reporters. Cultivating sources is a process, and often a time consuming one. This does not accord well with the fast-paced nature of today's news."

Her last remark--about the time-consuming process of cultivating sources being in conflict with the fast-paced nature of news--means that, more than ever, it's imperative that all professional communicators, whether journalist, publicist or anywhere in betweeen, view every interaction, on or off deadline, as an opportunity to expand their network.

The winners in this fast-paced environment, which is showing no signs of slowing, will be those who are adept at rapidly deploying the "delete" key and whose interactions are marked by a genuine others-focused, service orientation.

Kudos, then, to Trib reporter Jo Napolitano who kept her eye on the ball and provided the answer to the Tribune Metro editor inquiry. It's Peter Kendall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

It's my 40th birthday.

More than any other birthday, I've viewed this one with a strange mania, for at least a year now. A variation on the mid-life crisis, though without the big boat, sports car and "what happens-here-stays here" trip to Vegas.

It's all really silly, of course, and is a product largely of my preoccupation with numbers. Who else knows--or even cares to know---that they are 14,610 days old on their 40th birthday?

Then there's this gratitude reality check: how fortunate am I to live in this country, to have so many blessings in my life, starting with my health, my beautiful wife and wonderful children and other fantastic family members and friends?

Besides, this four-oh thing can be a lot of fun. When I have been telling people it's my birthday and have asked them to guess my age, they have been generously offering some major underestimates.

Maybe I should start telling people I'm 45. That would make me not only a liar, but also a Baby Boomer!

As part of my celebration today, and to support an Oak Park business that just opened a magnificent new space down the street, Marion Cheese Market, I bought a six-pack of quality beer (Wolaver's Pale Ale) at 9:35 a.m. (according to my receipt).

I confirmed I was the first alcohol purchaser with employees, and one kindly agreed to capture the moment with the photo you see above.

I don't look a day over 39, huh?

Monday, July 14, 2008

PR 101: Tell the Truth

5WPR, the former fastest-growing PR firm in the nation, has run into some negative and embarrassing Gawker publicity over questionable activities, to put it mildly.

In a blog post last month, I shared my e-mail interaction with the firm's president, Ronn Torrosian. At that time, I noted that he had been slow to update his website to make it clear that 5WPR was no longer the reigning fastest-growing PR firm across this great land.

I also suggested he refrain from using a stream of one-word sentences, since they can come across as arrogant gloating.

In the wake of the recent fiasco, I hope that Ronn has gathered his troops and issued a reprimand straight out of PR 101: Tell. The. Truth.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories

My wife Bridgett's aunt, Carol, had a book launch party last night. Carol is a splendid writing coach, based in Chicago but accessible online, and couldn't have crafted a better plot if she'd tried.

By any measure, the event at Women & Children First bookstore, on Chicago's North side, was a huge success. Nearly 100 people turned out on a stormy night. And Carol's book, Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories, sold out.

In addition to Carol (in photo, on right, next to Bridgett), four of the book's 32 contributors read aloud their pieces. Each tackled a different topic, prompted by Carol's many lessons. I wrote an essay, on risk (involving the daunting step of becoming a parent), but on this night my role was that of camerman.

My handy digital camera captured excerpts of the event, including this entertaining segment.

To see more video clips, click here and type "Carol LaChapelle" into the search box. Congratulations, Carol!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Citizens Bank Saga: Giving (Partial) Credit Where It's Due

Doing the right thing when nobody’s looking is so much better than being shamed into doing it when the world is watching.

That’s the lesson I take away from the Citizens Bank saga that I first chronicled on this blog a month ago.

For a recap, here’s the link to my first blog post on this issue, from June 5.

In my follow-up Citizens Bank post, I detail how Geoff Williams wrote a piece about the saga at

America Online owns Wallet Pop, and on June 18 AOL thought enough of the story (“Bank robs customer: a cautionary tale”) that for eight hours it provided a link to Geoff’s post from its home page.

That prominent placement drew the attention of untold thousands of people, when you consider the more than 320 who took the time to post comments that were overwhelmingly sympathetic to my sister’s plight. Many laid out their own battles with Citizens and a variety of other banks.

Fast forward to June 23, five days after the Wallet Pop generated so much buzz. A Citizens Bank VP of “priority response” contacted my sister. A dialogue ensued and last week Citizens brought her repatriation tally up to $1,050, or the equivalent of five years.

(By the way, I won’t even get into the issue of compound interest, and how much in real money, over time, that the bank improperly deprived my sister.)

Now that the bank, more than 1 ½ years later, has given (at least partial) credit to where it was due, I’ll return the favor. After all, it could have tried to weather the negative-publicity storm and not given my sis another penny.

So Citizens deserves a pat on the back for its belated, beleaguered gesture. Thanks, Citizens Bank.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Go Figure Goes to Medill

Yesterday I had the good fortune of speaking at my alma mater for the third time since last autumn. (Pictured is me, as a bearded wonder, during my first such talk in November 2007.)

At the invitation of Ceci Rodgers, adjunct professor of economics and business reporting, I spoke to a "Journalism By the Numbers" class for grad students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Adapted from my seven-year-old workshop, Go Figure: Making Numbers Count, the point that I drive home more than any other is the importance of using numbers in context.

All too often, the stories we tell are loaded with stats in a vacuum--leaving the reader to guess as to their significance. Instead, as story-tellers, whether journalist, publicist or any other role, we need to take the time to truly understand the relevance of a given number and then communicate it clearly to our audience.

For more Go Figure tips, go to this page on the Inside Edge PR website and click on Journalism Tips & Training Columns.

What about you--what irks you most about how the media uses (and misuses) numbers?

Monday, July 7, 2008

If You Read Only One 7,300-Word Story...

If you read only one 7,300-word story this month, make it this one: a superbly crafted piece that Gene Weingarten (pictured) wrote for the Washington Post in April 2007.

The story's centerpiece was a 43-minute solo performance by Joshua Bell, the world's preeminent violinist who gamely agreed to play in a most unorthodox setting.

In selecting Weingarten's piece for the Feature Writing Pulitzer, the Pulitzer Prize Board aptly described the feature as a "chronicling of a world-class violinist who, as an experiment, played beautiful music in a subway station filled with unheeding commuters."

As a dad, I was especially struck by this portion:

"There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."

Next time I have this "gotta get there" preoccupation, and one of my kids tugs at me to stop, I think I'll be more receptive.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Content Is King, Quality Stories Still Matter

When it comes to the world of blogging and social marketing and 2.0-This and Viral-Networking that and YouTube views by the millions, and whether it adds up to anything more worthwhile than 1.7 gallons of premium unleaded gas...

It can be very easy to forget, if only for a moment...

That it all breaks down--and fast--when you still don't have a story that anyone really cares to ingest, digest or take in jest.

If this were 1978, I'd tell you to write on a chalkboard, 101 times:

"Content is still king. The quality and relevance of stories still matter, very much."

But because it's 2008, I'll just send you to Seth Godin's recent post about the movie Wall-e, and how it trumps all the new-fangled wisdom because it tells a whale of a story.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Developing A Kick-Butt Story Idea

Working as a journalist for about 20 years, I learned that the best way to avoid getting assigned a lame story idea was to have a long list of cool stories I was already developing.

"Hey, Mike, I really wish I could take on that macrame conference story assignment," I might say, "but I'm already working on a slew of Page 1 candidates. Investigative stuff that'll knock your socks off. I'll send you an e-mail summary later today."

If you're a publicist, and you dread the specter of being associated with a lame news release, the same antidote applies: simply come up with a kick-butt story idea that you're eager to share with the media. Then, far from being sheepish in pitching the story to reporters, you'll be eager to get on the phone and shoot out those e-mails.

Of course, terrific story ideas don't always come to mind so simply. You need to devote time to thinking through the angle, and then exploring how you can develop it to the point of a media outreach.

One current idea that is on my mind is the closure of 600 Starbucks across the country. What can I do to parlay that business setback into a positive for one of my clients?

One obvious prospect is XS Energy Drinks, which provides a more healthful (no carbs, no sugar, loads of B vitamins), great-tasting alternative to expensive coffee. XS is the top-selling e-tail energy drink on the market and does about $150 million in North American sales annually, #6 in the energy drink category overall.

Because it's not sold in stores, it's easily the most successful energy drink you've quite likely never heard of.

At the same time, XS has a mission similar to Starbucks: provide folks with an energy boost, in a cool, lifestyle-enriching way.

Even better than developing a news hook for XS, is there a way to capitalize on Starbucks' struggle for at least one additional client? Absolutely--it's just a matter of time before identifying, then pursuing, those hooks.

Stay tuned and check out future blog posts as I delve into this matter further.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day: Not Just the 4th of July

For nearly 72 hours, from Sunday to Wednesday, I was at Camp Harvest, my church's amazing 650-acre spread in Newaygo, Michigan.

There, I had zero connection to the news, so I had a ton of catch-up to do today. I see my Red Sox have stumbled 3 1/2 games out of first place and that both Chicago baseball teams remain, amazingly, in first place.

And just about everything else seems to be about murder, in Chicago, throughout Illinois and across the globe. A notable exception was the wonderful story about the hostages freed from Colombian rebels.

Through all the pages, however, by far the most powerful, poignant stuff I came across was on today's Chicago Tribune editorial page---the photography of Chicagoans Arthur Mole and John Thomas nearly a century ago.

When I take in the stunning photographs, I wonder: would such a feat of patience and painstaking attention to detail be possible today? Or would we just settle for a computer-aided manipulation instead?

There's nothing that can come close to replicating this nation's military veterans, past, present and future. To all of you, the Baron Brood extends a heartfelt "thank you" for your service.

And to everyone else, Happy Independence's not just the 4th of July!